On the Picket Line

Striking stationary engineers protest Kaiser hospital bosses

By Betsey Stone
October 18, 2021

OAKLAND, Calif. — Chants of “What do we want? Contract!” echoed in the downtown here Sept. 30, as hundreds of stationary engineers on strike against Kaiser Permanente hospitals marched to the company’s headquarters.

They came from Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Vallejo, Dublin and other Northern California cities where 700 workers, members of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39, are on strike at 24 hospitals.

Also joining in were apprentices in the union’s training program, as well as Local 39 members who work for other employers. “Our contract is running out and what happens at Kaiser will impact us,” Joseph Adamo, assistant chief engineer at El Camino Hospital, told this Militant worker-correspondent.

“Kaiser is coming after these workers. Their wage offer doesn’t even keep up with inflation,” Adamo said. “And the nurses are taking a strike vote in Southern California as well. We have to stick together.”

Like nurses and other medical workers, stationary engineers have been on the front lines in the fight against COVID. They maintain heating, cooling and water systems in the hospitals. Biomedical engineers, also striking members of Local 39, maintain equipment, including ventilators.

Strikers were especially incensed when Kaiser refused to make a wage and benefits offer until the day the contract ran out.

“They waited until the last minute, and then they offered us a substandard contract,” strike captain Stanley Golik told the media while picketing outside the Kaiser facility in South Sacramento. “It was like a kick in the gut.”